Houses with double doors in Surbtal villages are part of a unique cultural heritage and a symbol of peaceful Jewish-Christian co-existence. The «Doppeltür» society wants to make the associated history visible. The SIG is committed to supporting this project.
The Doppeltür project aims to make the joint Jewish-Christian history of the Surbtal villages in the canton of Aargau accessible and experienceable. The name stems from the numerous double doors that can still be seen on buildings in Endingen and Lengnau. These twin doors are a testimony to the extraordinary co-existence between Jews and Christian as neighbours in the 18th and 19th century and as such part of a unique cultural heritage. One such double-door house in Lengnau is currently being converted into a visitor centre, which is due to open in 2023.
Unique Jewish-Christian co-existence in the Surbtal valley
The idea for the project was inspired by the story of Jewish presence in the Surbtal valley (canton of Aargau). Up to the 19th century, the villages of Endingen and Lengnau were the only locations in Switzerland were Jews were allowed to take up residence. All the same, their lives were constricted by numerous prohibitions and restrictions. The «Judengesetz» (Jew law) of 1809, for example, made it illegal for Jews in Switzerland to possess land or residential property. Living under the same roof with Christians was prohibited by the «Judenmandat» of 1776. Although such circumstances could easily have led to a ghettoisation of the Jewish population, Endingen and Lengnau found alternative solutions, as demonstrated by the houses with double doors. These buildings were equipped with two identical doors, which points towards close co-existence between Christians and Jews. Exactly how the two groups lived their daily lives has not yet been conclusively researched, but all the available evidence suggests peaceful co-existence side by side. The double doors are thus a unique historical testimony to religious tolerance and acceptance.
«Doppeltür» wants to preserve Jewish cultural heritage
Both the double-doored houses themselves and the historical legacy of close co-existence in the villages of Endingen and Lengnau form part of the region’s Jewish cultural heritage. The twin doors are tangible signs of social diversity and tolerance – subjects that have remained both topical and relevant to this day. The Doppeltür society wants to preserve this heritage. Its plans include exhibitions and educational programmes aiming to raise awareness of this special element of Swiss history and to draw parallels to the present. The project was given a major boost in December 2020, when the Aargau cantonal government announced its support for the creation of a visitors’ centre and the implementation of the Doppeltür outreach and education programme with start-up financing from the Swiss lottery fund («Swisslos-Fonds») amounting to CHF 4.65 million.
SIG’s commitment to the project
With its project, the Doppeltür society is making a significant contribution to the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage in Switzerland. Making cultural heritage visible and preserving it for coming generations is also one of the prime targets of the SIG, which is why it has actively supported the project from the very beginning. The SIG is a member and holds a seat on the board of the society.